Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Developing Future Leaders

BOND: What kind of leaders does contemporary society demand? How will future problems demand different leadership styles?

BUTTS: Well, different leadership styles, future problems will demand different leadership styles. One is because, in order to keep up with today, you’ve got to be technologically savvy and, you know, my style of leadership is often slow because I still write with a pen and pencil, and I’m just learning to use the text thing and as the campaign of Obama has shown us, in order to connect with the masses of young people, you’ve got to be technologically savvy so I think that’s one thing, and media. You know, how do you negotiate media? And there’s so much of it and it’s often difficult to communicate truth through a vehicle or medium of deception and so you’ve got to always be thinking about these kinds of things, you know. I guess the radio had its same challenges and television and now digital technology, XM or Satellite. And quite frankly, whoever can master that style and yet maintain a sense of integrity will begin to emerge as the leadership of the future.

BOND: Well, as a society, how can we foster, how can we create leaders of the future? Or perhaps the question is: can we create them?

BUTTS: I don’t think you can create them, but what you can do is instill in them the qualities of leadership, hopefully, and the only way I can answer that question is by telling you what happened to me. If there is a sense that I am in some ways defined as a leader, it is because I was influenced, maybe directly, but certainly indirectly by leaders. See, my father was a leader. He didn’t lead anything but his family. Bessie Jackson, Charles Wesley Shipman, Dr. Mays, Lawrence Neal Jones, Samuel Proctor, Gardner Calvin Taylor, and the exposure to this and the dedication to the race — maybe I’m a race man — was what helped to produce — it had to be the same for Dr. King. I’m in no way comparing myself to Dr. King.

BOND: I understand.

BUTTS: But, I mean, he used to sit around in his father’s living room and meet all of these great preachers and leaders who crossed paths in Atlanta. He went to Morehouse — Dr. Mays. So if we want to, because we never know whom God will select to rise up out of the group to become the preeminent, but if we want to, we have to work on developing character. Martin King said, “We should be judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.” Now, what is character? It’s the avoidance of luxury. It is developing the capacity to endure, to hang in there. It is nurturing the love for beauty, not just the superficial name but the deep qualities of the human soul, and it is having a concern for courtesy.

Thank you, Mr. Bond. You know, it’s been wonderful to be with you and I’ve appreciated the attendance of all of these wonderful technicians. You’d be surprised — when that character is exuded and followed by the second point of education which is to increase our knowledge, why, anybody could be a leader.